Terran's Ponderous Campaign

Ch.2 Part 4

After some thought on the matter, Captain Ecks has come to a decision regarding the Shrike. He has decided that it’s too risky to continue on to Buecopolis with her. He proposes to put in at Ithac, the Mycaean State nearest to our position. There we will attempt to sell the Shrike and/or make our case to the prize courts (provided a functional one can be found). Accordingly, both the Mare and Shrike turn east, bound for the city of Orosta. We should arrive between 12-18 hours depending on the weather.

After an uneventful 15 hours, we arrive on the coast of Ithac and turn north-east. Instead of lying on the coast, Orosta sits a half-mile or so inland along a river. A few miles from the river mouth, we are intercepted by Ithacs navy. The vessels will escort us up the river.

On arrival, we are informed of the local rules and regulations, including Orosta’s weapons regulations. Unfortunately we are not permitted to carry any weapons larger than a short-sword or a one-handed axe. Projectile weapons are also prohibited. Captain Ecks gives a brief explanation of our circumstances while we await the arrival of the Port Official.

The Customs & Port official, Banice arrives, and we briefly re-tell our story. While speaking with us, the dockside guards escort our prisoners (the rowers of the Shrike) and the crew off the vessels. Once all are removed from the vessels, Banice abruptly informs us that we are being placed under house-arrest while he investigates out claims. He also informs us that he’s impounding both the Mare and Shrike. We are to spend our time confined to an Inn which just happens to be owned by Banice. As we are led away, we notice that the Shrikes rowers are being herded in another direction. To our questions about this, Banice simply tells us they’re no longer our concern, that he’ll take care of them.

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Ch. 2 Part 3

At the last moment, Captain Ecks made another hard turn. Smashing into the galley, portside to starboard, the higher gunwales of the Mare proved an advantage. For the attackers it was as if they were attacking over a castle wall. One of our fellow passengers cast Bane *on our attackers, and *Blessed all of us. Both sides stationed archers as high as they could and kept up what ballistae fire was possible. However, the attackers were professional soldiers and sailors, whereas, the crew of the Mare were not. The quality difference began to tell, and the attackers began to make progress onto our decks. It was at this time that the Party, along with several other passengers leapt from the Mare onto the foredeck of the galley, flanking the attackers. After clearing out the ballistae crew at the bow, we began pushing aft, Bigulf, Theo, and one or two of the other passengers carving swaths through the attackers. Bern and Hans had joined a trio of Dwarves from the crew (a father and his two sons, the Mare has a strangely mixed crew.) at the forefront of the main fight, while Lassidil, Vindle, and Ardadan fought with bows from the raised stern of the Mare.

In a tangle of spars, lines, limbs and arrows, the fight began to swing our way. Eventually the crew began to push the attackers further back onto their own vessel. Lassidil moved to join the melee and cast a swarm of rats into the midst of the pirates. Not long after, the turn was irreversible and the defeat of our attackers was certain. Still they fought on for a while longer, until, one, then another, two more, and then the rest threw down their arms.

Of those aboard the galley, now identified as the Shrike, 13 are dead, six are wounded, and the rest are made prisoner. Thirty rowers below decks took no active part of the fight, and bring the prisoner total to 40. Aboard the Golden Mare, there are seven casualties: three dead, Orin Logarsson, Isfin Summerlight, and Rogan Harper. Four are wounded: Logar Garulfsson (Orin’s father), Celebdin, Reiner and Grimbor, all crewmen. There are minor injuries amongst the survivors of both crews.

Under the pale gray sky, the scene is one of drab, exhausted chaos. As so often happens, it now seems quiet. Sounds begin to creep through to the survivors; horses neigh below deck on the Mare, the hulls creak and grind against each other while the sea laps against them. A loose block on a severed line clatters in a slow rhythm against a mast. Abruptly, Captain Ecks gives a series of quick orders to the Mate, who takes a small party below the Shrike’s main deck. Many crew-members stand about, momentarily unsure, now that the fight is over, what to do with themselves. Groans and cries from the wounded rise from the decks. The Captain and ‘bosun rouse the crew to begin tending the wounded and clearing the mess. At the gunwale, several crew-members crouch over the fallen. Some wracked with grief. A Dwarf cradles his wounded father, while both weep over the body of the other son. Bern and the other Dwarves gather round and cover their heads and faces. (Hans stands nearby, uncomfortable with all this traditional Dwarven grief, yet unable to completely ignore its effect.) An elf gazes sadly at his fallen friend. Grievous as this all is, the ships and the wounded still require tending, and the officers see to it that the necessities are seen to.

The bodies of the dead Shrike crew are tossed overboard, and stock is taken of the damage to both vessels. Discussion begins about how Sea Law applies in a situation like this. Despite having turned to piracy, the Shrike crew confirms that they are officially part of the Kunac navy, though this crew (and many others) is made up almost entirely of recently hired mercenaries. So taking the Shrike to Buecopolis may prove difficult. Would they be believed? If not, what would happen to the Golden Mare and her crew and passengers? Should they instead head for one of the Mycaean States? Perhaps Pelpos or Ithac and take our chances with the Prize Courts?

Eventually Captain Ecks ends the discussion, reminding all that once they lowered the Kunac flag, and unlawfully attacked a merchant vessel, the law no longer protected the Shrike. According to Sea Law, in the case of piracy, especially outside territorial waters, a captain is the law, and can pass judgment and sentence. Action can be taken against pirates without objection from the flag State of the pirate vessel (In theory at least.). Once this is established, the Captain then begins to question the prisoners.

Though battered, the captain of the Shrike survived the fight and has now regained consciousness. It is he the Captain Ecks spends most of his time questioning. Through him it is learned that for some time now the Shrike (and several other vessels of the Kunac Navy) has been without orders and without pay. After several weeks of this, the captain decided to go into business for himself. In fact, attacking the Mare was their first attempt…

After some time, enough progress has been made aboard the ships for attention to be paid to the fallen. The bodies are prepared in weighted shrouds, ready to be placed into the sea. The crews (the Shrike crew is made to stand with bowed heads) are gathered and fall silent as Captain Ecks stands to address the crew and passengers of the Mare,

“ Friends; for we are all friends now, we are faced with the sad duty owed our dead. We must honor and remember their sacrifice, though, this morning none imagined we would have need to. At sea, all are far from home shores and their own ways. Sailors have ever known this, so our traditions are for all. We now send our friends, our brothers, our son (here he nods to Logar) to the sea. We ask that Great Ocean take and hold them, that he honor and care for them until that day arrives that we join with them once again.”

“Hands, bury the dead.”

Their friends and family members lift the three bodies. Bern assists the dwarves. Gently, the bodies are tipped into the water and sink immediately.

After a few moments, Captain Ecks gives orders for both vessels to make way. A prize crew under command of the First Mate is assigned to the Shrike. For two hours both ships sail north. Meanwhile repairs continue to be made, while Ecks has a small detail of men work on a particular project. At the end of the two hours, he orders the Mare and Shrike to be hove-to and laid alongside one another. Once this is done, he once again orders all to assemble. After a brief and private discussion with the First Mate, the prisoners are brought topside. The Shrike’s rowers remain aboard her, while the others are brought over to the Golden Mare.

Captain Ecks stares at the assembled prisoners. He holds them under his gaze for an uncomfortably long time, his face set, but his eyes troubled. Some of the prisoners shuffle their feet, increasingly uncomfortable under the Captains wordless stare. Only their captain seems untroubled, instead he seems distracted, with a far-away look.

Eventually the Captain clears his throat, and gives his head a slight shake. “You took to the sea, and so, you must abide by her rules, and her laws. Those laws are simple. I have no wish to be an executioner…your executioner, but you made that choice for me. This morning you were sailors, this afternoon, you’re pirates. This morning my crew was only thinking of getting to where we’re going. This afternoon they’re mourning their crewmates, their friends, and their family.” Here, he pauses as if he were planning to say more. Instead, he gestures to the bo’sun. A party of men spring into action, and quickly, eight nooses are run up along the main-yard.

Captain Ecks steps back a pace, and his voice hardens, “At sea, a captain is judge and jury. You stand convicted of piracy and murder and will pay the price. Bo’sun, execute sentence!” At this, several deckhands place the nooses over the necks of eight of the prisoners. Immediately other hands run the lines, and the prisoners rise into the air. As they reach the yardarm, by design, knots come undone and drop the prisoners several feet, breaking their necks for a quick death.

The bodies are lowered immediately and checked. All are dead. The bodies are simply tipped over the side. Captain Ecks gives orders to get under way, then he turns toward the ashen-faced pirate captain; his voice dry slate, “They were just pirates. An execution was called for and it was carried out. You though, you made the decisions. Because of your decisions, all these people are dead.”
“Men, throw him over the side.”

The Shrike’s captain is grabbed and thrown overboard amongst the bodies of his crew. The Mare and Shrike pull away as he splashes and splutters, thrashing to keep his head above water.

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Ch. 2 Part 2

After preparing and resting, the Party sets off late the next morning. Though “on the job” from this moment on, there is really nothing for them to do for many days yet except relax, and enjoy the trip down the coast, then across to Ceata.

The days pass uneventfully, and a ship heading for Ceata is quickly found. This leg of the trip is a bit less comfortable, as, for many of the Party, this is their first time out on deep water, much less out of sight of land. While by no means a rough voyage, the rolling and pitching of the decks is far more pronounced out here.

On the thirteenth day from leaving Pecs, the Party arrives at the port city of Chania, on the southeast corner of Ceata. It will take the better part of a day to reach the city of Konaros on the opposite side of the island. Even this late in the year, the weather here is hotter than in Kalifaa, and the day’s journey is a bit dusty and uncomfortable.

Arriving in Konaros, the Party gets right to the business of finding a place to stay for the night and passage to Buecopolis as soon as may be. Eventually, they find a vessel planning to embark for Buecopolis in the morning. Having done this, the Party heads to bed.

In the morning, the Party rises early and begins the process of loading into the ship. In addition to cargo and us, this vessel, the Golden Mare is also booking other passengers heading to points north and/or west. We set off northwards in relatively calm seas. Captain Ecks tells us that better progress will be made on this course due to the winds being in a more favorable quarter, in two days we’ve traveled nearly 250 miles. (The westbound legs had only covered about 180-210 in the same amount of time.) During this time, we see only a few other sails, but Captain Ecks assures us it’s not terribly unusual for the time of year. In fact, we’re coming into the season for very rough weather on the Mare Mercuria, which is why he wants to get north and west quickly and off-load his cargo. Then he can sit safe and snug in a good harbour for the storm season. For three days all is normal, on the third day the sea was a bit rougher, but settled during the night. The level and type of traffic was normal as well.

The fourth day at sea began with light airs under a gray sky, and a very calm sea. Still, there was enough air for the sails, and, as the morning progressed, the breeze freshened and we picked up speed. We are roughly 100 miles off the coast of Pelpos. Around eleven in the morning, a Kunac flagged vessel is spotted to windward (on our port side). It turned onto a course that brought it closer, but not directly towards us. As it neared it was identified as a light galley, a naval vessel. It continued to close, and, at 1 o’clock, suddenly lowered the Kunac flag and turned to the attack. Ballistae fire began to pepper us as soon as it was in range. Captain Ecks ordered return fire (The Mare is lightly armed), and a change of course. It quickly became clear we would not be able to outrun the galley, so Captain Ecks used what time he could to allow the crew and passengers to arm themselves and prepare for a fight. Once all were ready, he suddenly reversed course and counter attacked.

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Ch. 2 Part 1

Standing on the battlements, looking down on the ravaged fortress, the members of the Party feel oddly depressed and somber. They are not alone in this. Very few of the Militia feel like celebrating, and those who do, quickly subside, noticing the lack of participation from the others. With nothing else to do, the Party returns to the ground floor and wanders out the gate. Along the way, they dispense what little healing remains to them, while more mundane healers do what they can. Amrun parts with the Party, naturally wishing to be with his family. He will take them home and have them cared for, then try to rebuild their lives and their ranch. He fondly embraces each member of the Party, even taking the time to rout out Vindle for thanks.

The Mayor and Constable exchange a few words with the Party, quickly thanking them, then informing them they are free to rest and return to town. They will all reconvene tomorrow and discuss matters. Instead of going all the way back to town, Amrun puts them up at Opal House. Not feeling very hungry (though they should) all fall into a deep and late sleep.

Next day, the Party meets with the Mayor and Constable, both of whom look in need of rest. Much has happened since the previous afternoon. Many prisoners have been interrogated; communication south has been reestablished, most importantly with the capital city of Pecs (“Paych”). The mystery of the late vessels and vanishing tower repairs has been partially solved. Every time a southbound vessel came along, the entire garrison hid, and the Commander had a mysterious powder sprinkled on the new construction/repairs, after which they turned invisible. All northbound traffic was stopped, the crews taken to the tower, the vessels searched for communications, and then, after a while, the dazed, somnambulant crews were taken back aboard and dropped off upriver. Eventually they would regain their senses with no memory of the events. A few of the bandits think the rod (that the creature took from the Commander) had something to do with the interrogations, but this is largely speculation. It also seems that the Riverhills area was lucky. Apparently, this incursion was a concerted effort of some sort, and was only discovered because of ill discipline amongst the bandits. There was meant to be no raiding or banditry until the Commander ordered it. If that had happened, it’s likely no defense could have been mustered in time. Word has come that this is not an isolated event and that other communities along the Kalifaan coast have not been as fortunate.

With this disturbing and incomplete news, the Party is informed that they have been summoned to the Capital. There they are likely to receive more information. A vessel has been readied to take them across the bay to Pecs, and they are to set off immediately.

After another round of thanks and goodbye’s, they board the skiff (after a bit of trouble with the horses) and set off. The journey will take at least four hours beating against the wind and the Party takes the opportunity for more rest and to admire the view of Aurelian Bay, shining in the autumn sun, full of ships and boats going about their many businesses. After the first hour, Pecs itself comes into view, glittering on its promontory at the mouth of the bay, the sails of the many watercraft flitting about her shores like a crowd of admirers. While not terribly large, through good fortune and good management, Pecs has grown into a rich and beautiful city.

Arriving, they are met by a guide and first taken to their pleasant lodgings, where they leave their animals and belongings. After, they are then escorted to the Palace where they are to meet with some Very Important People. As they are guided down a hallway, another group of somewhat bedraggled “adventurer” looking persons are being escorted in the other direction and politely nod as they pass.

Entering a large room, the Party is introduced to Kalfaa’s top General and Admiral, and the Duke himself. Here the Party learns that, yes, the rumors are true, there HAVE been many such incursions up and down nearly the entire coast of Kalifaa, some more successful, some less. Indeed, in some parts, the “bandits” are holding territory. Prisoner interrogations indicate that the bandits are (or were) expecting some sort of reinforcements, almost certainly from the sea. This obviously sounds more like an invasion than a series of coincidental bandit raids. The Army (Kalifaa’s is not terribly large.) is on the move, and reserves are being mustered, The Navy, likewise is blockading every bandit held port and heavily patrolling the rest of the coastline. More interestingly, several prisoners are from Kalifaa’s rival, Kunac, a few, including the commander of the Riverhills assault, seem to have been (at least formerly) members of Kunac’s military. Though nothing has been found to suggest any direct or active involvement, there are enough prisoners, and a few documents, that make it worth investigating.

Bern and Ardadan are still subject to emergency orders, but the Duke is a polite Dwarf, and asks the entire party to aid Kalifaa. He would like them to make their way to Kunac and attempt to discover whether or not there is any official and/or direct connection to these attacks. The Party wonders why, a State like Kalifaa doesn’t already have spies in Kunac. The Duke explains that, in an effort to relieve tensions between the two countries, he had recalled all the spies and agents a few years ago. He admits that this was a shortsighted mistake, and again, requests their aid.

For their various reasons, not least the desire to further learn the reasons for all the trouble and strange events in their lives, the entire Party agrees. Pleased, the Duke informs them of the generous terms of their employment, and then lets them know they have the rest of today, and a bit of tomorrow morning to prepare. They will then take ship and head south to a port city in Krelm. From there, they will make arrangements to travel to the island of Ceata. In Ceata, they will then take ship again for Buecopolis, the capital of Kunac.

Note: At this point there was an extended discussion regarding the “extraneous” characters like Bigulf. If we wanted, this was a good juncture for parting ways. In the end though the players had grown fond of all the characters, so the Party remained intact.

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Ch. 1 Part 12c

Bigulf smashes open the door, and Theo darts in, only to be immediately clobbered by two more automated guards. The room also contains several heavily armed guards as well as the guard Captain, and a man who is obviously the Commander. They are stunned for a moment, being obviously caught arguing, probably over their situation. There is also a very small, winged creature standing on the Commanders desk. These are all obviously well armed, armored and trained adversaries, and now they outnumber us (with Theo being unconscious). However, the automatons save the situation in an ironic twist. After felling Theo, they move past him to get to the rest of the Party, effectively blocking the door. The rest of the Party is able to fight them individually, while the other bandits can do nothing to help. Lassidil also takes this opportunity to revive Theo, who is now behind the door guards.

Just before we entered, we clearly heard someone (probably the Commander), say, “No, you can’t take them, they were given to me!” In the seconds after Theo was revived, the small creature could be heard rasping back to the Commander, “No, you are finished here! You have failed our Master utterly and these things are forfeit!” It then lunged and grabbed a glossy black& gold rod (topped with an ivory skull), and a small-ish leather bag. He then leapt for a window.

Theo, groggily witnessing this, decided the better course was to try to capture this creature and discover what it was “rescuing”. He lunged for the …thing, but it struck back with a surprisingly strong swipe of its claw, then the other occupants of the room battered Theo back into unconsciousness. The creature made it to the window and flew off.

Meanwhile, the remainder of the Party is able to deal with the automatons piecemeal, and then face the remaining bandits with an advantage. Backed against the wall, the Captain and his soldiers give the Commander a look of utter, pure hate, and then rush the Party. They fight hard, dying to a man. To his credit, the Commander is no coward, and fights as long and hard as the rest. As he finally falls, a clatter can be heard back in the hallway. Rushing to face this new threat, the Party discovers an obviously still unwell Ardadan, hobbling and limping up the stairs. He’d smuggled himself amongst the Militia, wanting to lend a hand.

_NOTE: I brought Ardadan back to the fight in a sudden panic that I’d made this fight over powered for the Party. Theo had been knocked out twice, and ALL the opponents were equal to or higher than the PC’s. In the end, it all worked out, and he wasn’t needed, so I just decided he arrived as I’ve just described.
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Between them, the Party once again revives Theo, and then proceed up to the final two floors. On the fifth they find the armory, it’s thankfully deserted. The only level left is the roof, which they know was packed with bandits and heavy weapons. However, they discover that the ships crew had done a fantastic job of clearing this area with ballistae and arrow fire. There are one or two survivors, but they are cowering against the walls and make no attempt to fight. The battle is over.

  • End of Chapter 1*
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Ch. 1 Part 12b

In the meantime, the Party has remained undetected for a few more precious seconds, allowing them to get closer to the gate-defenders. However, one of the archers fighting the ship notices them and raises the alarm. The party now opens fire on the defenders. Vulnerable as they are, this only aids their comrades. As defenders attack them, the pressure is lessened on the other town forces. Their advance on the gate slows as they begin peppering the defenders. For the moment they target only enemies on the river-side walls and a few reinforcements standing in the courtyard. As yet, due to the chaos and din, the gate defenders remain unaware of the Party’s presence, but this can last only a few moments more.

The arrival of the ships crew puts an end to whatever “secrecy” is left to the Party. Defenders from the wall, and reinforcements in the courtyard turn to deal with the ships crew, drawing the attention of the gate-defenders in the process, most stay at their posts, but some turn toward the Party to attempt to sweep them off the platform. Bigulf and Theo move to the front of the group to intercept the defenders, while the rest shoot arrows into the group attacking the ship crew. Occasionally, they take time to fire on the gate defenders as well, especially when one of their archers attempts to shoot Theo or Bigulf.

Sensing a lessening of pressure, and seeing a few defenders moving away from the gate, the ground troops rush the walls; the ballistae continue firing until the troops reach the wall, then the crews abandon their artillery and join the attack. Ladders are raised and the militia fights their way up the walls. The fighting is fierce here. For a minute or so there is nothing but feral savagery, then a hole in the defense is opened, and the militia gain the wall. First one, then three, suddenly a man is over the gate, waving the Town Flag, rallying troops to him.

Bigulf and Theo have been hacking and tearing their way towards the gate, carving a pathway through the defense. Bern, Lassidil and Hans have been pouring arrows into the crowd below. Some defenders have attempted to get up to them but are quickly shot down. The true savagery however is at the dock-gate. The ships crew is being cut down and pressed back further and further. They are lightly armoured and armed only with short swords and bows. Now they are on the ground, facing the main force of the garrison and are heavily outnumbered and out classed and paying the price for their bravery. It is crucial to get the ground forces in as quickly as possible. While the militia has gained a foothold on the walls, they don’t yet control them and have yet to reach below to the gate itself. As yet, they can’t help the beleaguered ships crew. The Party redoubles their efforts to get to the gate.

Foot by blood-drenched foot, they draw nearer, until, realizing they’re under attack from both sides, resistance on the wall collapses, most stop fighting, a few try to leap over the wall, chancing broken bones in the fall. Lassidil rushes forward and again, utilizes Warp Wood to open the main gate. Militia troops storm through, chopping the defenders into scraps. The town forces slam ferociously into the rear of the defenders. They are angry, frightened and desperate to help their comrades. These are their neighbors and friends, in some cases even family, and they’re all defending their home. The Party, followed by several militia troops, runs back along the wall to get to the ships crew and help them from that side.

Eventually, after more blood, more tears, and more effort, the fight is ended, the last to fall is a group of savage, unrelenting gnolls who tried, even with their dying gasps to rend and tear their enemies. A seeming quiet descends for a few moments. Not a true silence, there is still plenty of noise, ragged breathing, weeping, cries for aid, and muttered words of comfort, but for a few moments it seems quiet. This short respite comes to an end as the attackers now turn their attention to the tower.

Seeing a few closed windows at what must be the second level, ladders are brought up and Bern ascends. Reaching a window, he bashes it open and peers inside. All he can see is an empty room with a closed door. The window itself is barely large enough to let one person in at a time, and they’d have to struggle to do that. Any thought of entering that way is abandoned.

The Party (and especially Amrun) is anxious about the missing prisoners. It seems likely that they’d be held here, and if so, it’s imperative to find them before any harm comes to them (if it’s not already too late), so they must get into the tower quickly. Rushing around the tower, the troops and Party come to a halt as the see the two sentries guarding the doors. Standing still as the proverbial statues, they neither stir nor even turn their heads towards the attackers. Each is armed with a long halberd and is encased in armor. It is clear from the debris and a scuffmark here and there on their armor, that they have remained at their post for the entire battle. Indeed, recalling that they had seen at least one of the sentries earlier, the Party says that it appears the two haven’t moved an inch. Cautiously the Party edges towards the guards. A few of the braver (or more foolhardy) troops do as well. The guards remain utterly immobile. Then, as some of the attackers come within about ten feet of them, both turn astonishingly fast towards the group, halberds poised to stab or chop. Clearly they are some type of automaton, but the question of what they are and where they come from must wait. Right now they are merely a hindrance to entering the tower.

The Party and some of the Militia swarm the guards and make relatively short work of them. Then, the Party readies itself to enter the tower. Opening the doors, they find the living quarters of the garrison. Bedrolls and personal belongings cover much of this area. This lower floor is, however, deserted. Moving to the stairs, the Party moves to the second floor. Here, they find the prisons (being in such a marshy area, the tower has no lower levels.) Again, this level is deserted. However, searching the two cells (one is the empty room Bern looked into earlier), they find Amrun’s family. They look wan and haggard, and are clearly in a bad way. The cell stinks of filth. The Party is told that the garrison stopped delivering food or drink a few days ago (coinciding with out raid on Opal House). Amrun stays with them and begins to help them out. He plans to rejoin us once he’s coordinated with the Militia to aid his family. Again moving up a level, the Party this time is confronted by a small number of bandits, mostly orcs. After a brief and one-sided fight, which ends with all but one bandit who surrendered) dead, the Party moves on (after calling down to the Militia to expect a prisoner.). In the relative quiet, voices can be faintly heard from the floor above. It’s difficult to be sure, but it sounds like an argument. Amrun returns, and the Party proceeds upstairs. This level houses nicer living quarters. On the right, there are two rooms and on the left, one, larger room. The hall is empty. All the voices are coming from the larger room. The two smaller rooms are found to be empty, so the Party quietly stations itself outside the door to the main room. Listening for a brief moment, two or three voices can be distinguished, with another, oddly high and scratchy one as well. The Party takes a deep breath…

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Ch. 1 Part 12

18th of Sunwane

Dawn arrives and promises a pleasant day to come, if it weren’t for the impending hostilities. The air has freshened and with it, comes a pleasantly cooling breeze.

As planned, another embassy approaches the walls and repeats the previous days entreaties. Again, they receive only silence. On the hillside, the Party watches and wonders how they can be of help. Anything that would ease this assault would be worthwhile. The Militia possesses scaling ladders and a moderately sized ram, but to use them, men still need to reach the walls. Though success is all but assured, losses will be high during the approach as well as the assault itself. The inevitable outcome seems to be recognized by a number of the bandits as well. Desperate to escape, some of the bandits attempt a desperate escape. Three goblins appear from the pier and make a mad dash towards the hill where the party is watching. A shouted order is heard, and a brief shower of arrows ends their escape. Apparently the bandits will defend this fortress willing or no.

With little to mark the moment, the assault begins. The militia has their own ballistae and archers, these move into range and begin a barrage against the defenders. The Mayors goal is to thin out the enemy numbers as much as is practical before rushing the walls. The ship draws closer and, also using archers and ballistae, works to clear the opposite side as well as the tower defenses. With its tall masts, the ship can match the height advantage of the tower. This double assault also thins out the defenders along the wall. They are unable to concentrate in any one area without weakening another.

Under a barrage from two sides, the bandits return fire. Their archers are relatively few, but their ballistae are well manned and accurate. Casualties mount on both sides. The ship Captain orders his crew to concentrate on the ballista crews first, before continuing to fire on the other defenders

The Party watches, anxious that, for the moment, they can be of no real use. If only they could get inside. Then it occurs to them to wonder how the three goblins got outside the walls. Taking another look, they recall that when first spotted, the goblins appeared from under the pier. With the tide low right now, the part of the pier attached to the wall is out of the water. A small, seasonal creek runs into the tower from the hills. At this time of year, it is only just beginning to carry water. If a creek runs in, it must run out, and that outlet just might be under the pier, emptying into the river.

Quickly deciding it’s worth a try, the Party quickly chooses a rout along the bank of the river. With the tide low (the Bay is within a couple miles) they can easily crawl along the edge of the bank, concealed by the rushes. Further, most of the defenders are occupied away from this side

Dangerous though this is, they proceed, and, with a healthy dose of good fortune, make it to the pier without incident. Sure enough, the remains of a culvert open into the river. A few crates and sacks can be seen through the opening. Cautiously peering inside, the party realizes that in further good fortune, a pile of supplies is situated in such a way as to obscure this area from the view of the garrison. With the attention of the defenders elsewhere, the whole Party enters safely. Looking about, they note that the larger proportion of defenders is stationed on the landward side of the wall. They also see what seems to be a sentry, partially hidden by the corner of the tower, standing at what must be the door into the tower. This doorway faces the river-side part of the wall. They can also see that the wall facing the hills has been emptied, probably in order to bolster the other sections. A stairway is close by, on the other side of their hiding-place.

Recognizing an opportunity when they see one, the Party wastes no time and rushes up the stairs. As they prepare to advance on the gate defenders, an idea occurs to Lassidil. Drawing on her druidic powers, she uses Warp Wood on the frame of the dock-gate. No longer secured, the gate swings open. The Party then turns their attention back to the main gate.

_Note: I’d honestly not expected this. Jill surprised us all with such an elegantly simple action. It was a spectacular, exciting and battle-changing moment. Good stuff.
_
Seeing the open gate at the dock, the ship captain quickly changes plans. While his crew was intended to only provide distraction and covering fire from another direction, and aren’t really equipped for an assault, the open door MUST be taken advantage of. He gives orders to make way and steer directly for the dock. Ignoring finesse, he rams the ship into the side of the dock and orders his crew to charge into the opening. Ill prepared as they are, the crew leaps to it and storms the fortress.

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Ch. 1 Part 11

*16th of Sunwane
*
The morning arrives much too early for their taste, and with it comes worry about the consequences of last nights actions. How will the bandits react? Will there be patrols, searches? Realizing they brought this on themselves, the Party resignedly returns to their duty, though, those not at the observation post make preparations to leave if necessary.

As the morning continues, they see that a few bandits are indeed moving up and down the Highway. As they feared, it seems that it would have been better to let the column pass. As they tensely watch, the figures soon return to the trees on the far side of the Highway, leaving the Party more worried than before. After some time, further south, a small group crosses the Highway and heads towards the tower path. A half-hour later two more do the same, then, shortly after, a few individuals, followed by another group appear almost directly across from the path. As each group appears, it heads down the path to the tower. During this time, there has been no activity from the direction of Opal House. After the latest group enters the tower, there is nothing more to be seen. The Highway is empty; no boats can be seen on the river, there is no movement from the tower, not a bird in the still air. The party continues watching as hour follows hour, ready to run or fight at any moment, their breathing loud in their own ears, aware that something important is in the offing. Despite, or perhaps because of their heightened alertness, the Party nearly jumps out of their skins when they hear footsteps to their right.

They had nearly forgotten the messenger. He has returned to relay important news. The City forces have (by now) nearly reached Opal House. A portion of the force will peal off to deal with the bandits there and secure the flank, while the rest continue on. The mayor does not want to begin a fight in the afternoon or evening, so the Force will halt just out of sight of the tower, then quickly approach and seal off the tower in the morning. Support from the river is also expected and on its way. With this news the lack of repercussions for their rashness is explained.

Continuing, the messenger tells them that after making a final report, they are free to join the army, or head back to town and report to Constable Harrick. The Party decides to remain and help with the coming siege. With this decided, and free of further responsibilities for the moment, they take the opportunity to simply sleep.

17th of Sunwane

As planned, the small “army” rises early an immediately begins to quick march towards the tower path. As they approach, shouting can be faintly heard, and a few individuals as well as a group of bandits can be seen running up the path away from the tower. They continue across the Highway and into the woods, never pausing in their flight. It appears that some of the rats are leaving the sinking ship.

Seeing this, the Party offers to hurry ahead and occupy the area on the far side of the tower and path, hopefully cutting off any further retreats. The Mayor agrees and off they go. Once on the hillsides the Party are afforded a partial view inside the toll towers walls. The walls are an octagonal ring, with a tower, also eight-sided rising in the center. The main gate lets out onto the pathway. A small pier and crane extend into and over the river; a single, small boat is tied to the pier. Clearly there is a second gate here. The approach to the tower is restricted. The pathway is bordered by a marsh to the north, and the wooded hills to the south. This will hamper the towns’ forces. They will be forced into a narrow front until shortly before reaching the walls. On the walls and atop the tower, can be seen several ballista-like weapons and many troops. It would seem the tower is heavily manned, no doubt partly due to the “refugees” bolstering the numbers.

The Party can’t see any details under the near side of the wall, but they can see some of the far side (those parts not obscured by the tower) there are stables and other buildings built against the inner side of the wall.

Meanwhile, as the town militia is approaching, a large vessel can be seen approaching down the river. The tower is now threatened by the river and land. The militia arrives and halts out of range. Preparations for a siege and/ or assault begin. Tents are set up on the dry land, defensive trenches are dug, and heavy weapons are assembled. The Party informs the Mayor of what they’ve seen.

Despite their advantages, an assault is going to prove costly, if this can be resolved without further fighting, so much the better. With this in mind, and embassy approaches the gate and hails the garrison commander. Silence is their only answer. After many minutes waiting, the embassy returns to the camp. It appears that only an assault is going to resolve this. The Mayor decides that the remainder of the day will be spent in preparation, then rest, tomorrow, one more chance to surrender will be given to the bandits. If they refuse, the assault will commence. The Party remains on the hill, watching.

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Ch. 1 Part 10

Hastily readying themselves, the Party is relieved when a voice calls to them by name and claims to bear a message from Ardadan and the Mayor.

It is indeed a messenger. He has much to tell and not much time. Events back in town have been developing quickly. In the absence of contact with the capital, with deteriorating contact elsewhere, and based on the information provided by Ardadan, the mayor has decided that he must take control of the situation. The entire militia and watch have been called up. Further scouting (by other parties) has indicated that, for the most part, the north and east of town are clear enough to be ignored for the present time, freeing the local forces to concentrate on the west and south. While it is clear that important matters are occurring to the west, the Mayor agrees that the south is the most likely present threat and/or center of these troubles. The capital is to the south and re-opening communication is imperative. Additionally, any threats from the south are closer, so, even if they prove to be minor, little time would be lost and then the militia would be free to turn its full attention to the west.

So, the plan is to move the bulk of the militia south and clear the area and break through if necessary to the southern settlements, then turn their attention to the west. In order to facilitate this, a series of relay point are, even now setting up along the old highway route. As the party gains further information, they can quickly contact the closest, and that info will be passed along. The “army” will be moving slowly due to its size, and the effort of clearing out the route.

No longer needing to send Vindle, the Party relays all that they’ve observed to this messenger, but then, ask why he, and not Ardadan brought this information. The messenger tells them that, in the interests of speed, Ardadan had several times used portions of the Highway. At some point bandits had spotted him and shot him. The arrow had hit him in the back, near his kidney, and he was obliged to ride for several hours before reaching town and receiving any aid. He may recover, but, due to the delay, this is no longer certain. Several of the towns’ healers are looking after him.

At this, the Party thanks the messenger, and returns to their assignment. Not without some discussion of Ardadan. Now events are certainly coming to a head, both with hope as well as uncertainty.

As the Party ponders this turn, word comes from the observation post that more bandits have hastily, and none too stealthily approached and entered the tower from the direction of the Highway. The entire Party now watches as, a half-hour or so later, two bandits emerge from the tower and trot rather quickly up the path towards the highway, where they turn north. After another half-hour, the gates open again, and a small troop escorting a wagon emerges. The column also turns north (right) as it reaches the Highway.

Perhaps the intense stress of the last few days, together with their feelings about Antalante and Ardadan, can explain what happened next. Ignoring their orders for the first time, the Party decides to ambush the column. It will take some time for the column to draw parallel with the Party, so they have time to prepare. If they hurry, they may even be able to intercept the two bandits who left earlier.

In the gathering darkness, the Party makes its way to the side of the Highway. Fortunately they do arrive before the two bandits. Staying under cover, they also discover two more bandits emerging from the brush on the other side of the Highway. Amrun tells the Party that that area is the furthest corner of his land. From this position, the Party can tell that the (now four) bandits are goblins. They are able to overhear some of the conversation. It appears that the survivors of the Opal House fight have sent word to the tower and asked for re-supply and reinforcement. The column coming up the Highway is part of that relief effort. The new commander for Opal House is with them. The conversation takes a quick turn though as the goblins discuss the situation. It seems they are not happy, and feel that things are getting out of control and dangerous for them. After making contact, the four goblins split back up into two groups, one heading back to link with the column, the other returning to the trees, likely to pass the word to Opal House.

The Party is excited by this news and readies an ambush. They find cover in the dark and the brush along the Highway. Theo and Lassidil are further to the right, while Hans, Amrun, Bern and Bigulf are in a group to their left. The plan is for Theo and Lassidil to stop the column from the front, while the rest hammer into it from the flank. Hans moves down the road a bit to watch for the column.

After some time, he returns, indicating the approach of the column. All now ready themselves. As it approaches, the details of the coming fight can be seen. There appear to be two goblins, four or so orcs, and three or four hobgoblins. The human commander can’t be seen at the moment, but is likely just obscured by the wagon. There are no lights being used, so it is quite dark. Once close enough, Lassidil and Theo open fire.

The ambush goes off perfectly to plan. In the darkness, the confusion is complete. Taking out the head of the column brings it to a halt, and as more move to the front to see what’s happening they can be eliminated as well. Though the bandits quickly realize they’re under attack, the confusion is more than enough to seal their fate. They are being attacked from multiple sides, and, before they can organize, the Party slams into them. Even the commander is easily taken care of. By the time he entered the fight, he was nearly on his own. After, the party is intrigued to discover that he is dressed and armoured identically to the original commander at Opal House.

After the elation wears off though, they realize the flaw in their plan. They now have a cart full of supplies, two horses and eleven bodies to deal with. Considering their job is to observe and report, this is something of a problem. Eventually they decide that the best course of action is to drag the bodies to the marsh, and to find a spot where they can take the cart off the Highway and hide it somewhere along the old road. Risky as this is, it seems better than leaving everything on the Highway where the carnage would act as a signpost saying, “Search here for enemies!” laborious and tiring as this is, they clearly have no viable alternative and, so, set about covering their tracks. In the dark, they do the best they can to obscure the spilled blood. Eventually, tired, sweaty from the effort, cold from the autumn night, the Party wearily returns to the campsite, surprising Vindle with two more horses to care for.

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Ch. 1 Part 9

15th of Sunwane

This night passes restfully and uneventfully. Nothing disturbed the campsite, and nothing was seen by the observation post. The Party gathers itself and prepares for the tedious, but essential effort of watching. Little transpires for quite some time, until, in the late morning, some figures can be seen off in the distance to the south. Three or four figures seem to be moving from the Highway, to a path running between a marsh, and the hills to the south. They are moving east and, if they continue, they will eventually reach an old, long disused toll tower on the banks of the river. It is at this point that Bern and Lassidil realize something that has been right in front of them. Instead of a crumbling ruin, the tower has clearly been hastily repaired and is habitable, and, more importantly, defensible. Now under greater scrutiny, other figures are occasionally visible along the walls and atop the tower itself. This is a stunning, yet, in retrospect, obvious development. Cross-checking the captured map, the Party members notice that a hole (with traces of red ink) has been scratched in the area corresponding to the tower.

Clearly, THIS is where they should be concentrating their efforts. They decide to move even closer to better observe the tower.

As they are doing this however, there is a sudden flurry of activity at the tower. A small boat has raced up to the tower from further up the river, followed minutes later by a good deal of commotion. Fearing, for a moment, that they have been spotted, the party hits the ground and freezes. Nervously watching the tower, they notice that all of the guards have disappeared. Instead several figures can be seen running to the repaired portions of the wall and tower. To the surprise of the party, a few seconds later, all traces of the repairs disappear; leaving the toll tower once again looking ruined and abandoned. Bewildered for the moment, the Party decides to risk moving a bit into better cover. Minutes later, a possible explanation for these strange events appears on the river. The masts of a southbound boat can be seen approaching.

All is still for quite some time as the boat makes its lazy way down the river, past the tower and out of sight. Not until long after the boat has passed is there any activity to be seen at the tower. Even then, it takes another hour or so before the repairs begin to slowly re-appear. This is a stunning development, clearly worth reporting. While some of the Party continues with the task of establishing a close observation point, the rest return to the main camp to discuss the events and decide how to proceed. Eventually, they decide that while definitely important, it’s better to wait until the whole day has passed before sending any messages in case any further developments occur. As it transpires, this is a wise decision.

After the incident with the boat, there is little activity for quite a while. After several hours though there is again a commotion. Another mast appears, this time coming north, from Aurelian Bay. From the tower shoot two fast-oared boats, full of dark figures. They rapidly intercept the inbound vessel and escort it to the tower.

For the better part of an hour there is no more to be seen. Eventually, however, the river trader and the two escorts leave the tower and continue up the river. They continue towards a bend that will hide them from view, so Amrun, and some of the others hastily scramble through the marsh to find a point from which they can continue to observe the convoy.

Once situated, they watch as the smaller boats continue to escort the trader through two loops of the river, coming ever closer. One of the loops brings the convoy within a hundred yards of the Party members. At that distance they can make out more details. It seems the two small boats are less crowded than before, and that the trader is currently being crewed by the brigands. This observation is soon confirmed as, shortly after passing, but before rounding then next bend, faint cries can be heard from the convoy. The vessels slow to a halt, and, one at a time each of the smaller boats lays alongside the trader, taking aboard the brigand crew. Once all are aboard, the two boats swiftly row away, back down the river. After some time (and long after the two boats are out of sight) a stirring can be seen aboard the trader. Here and there, men can be seen standing up and looking around, bending below the gunwales to rouse their companions. After a short time, and some confusion, the trader again sets out north towards Riverhills.

There being nothing more to see, the group heads back to camp to inform the others. Once all are gathered and have shared their information, the Party agrees to send another messenger to town. Vindle will head out this time.

Afternoon is growing towards evening as they have been discussing this and are preparing for the coming night. As they are doing this, the party is abruptly interrupted by the unmistakable sounds of something approaching from the north.

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